Narional Archives of Australia
A6456 R022/008 1949 - 1956
Welfare of Aborigines
Patrol Report W MacDougall 17.12.1955
Copyright P J Mackett, 2006
17 December 1955
Report on trip with Mr Miller, Superintendent of Reserves
SA to Mt Davies and reconnaissance to Rawlinson Range with Mr
Nossiter SRRO party.
The trip to Mt Davies was hurried and the instruction not to
discuss policy was observed so far as possible under the circumstances.
It was difficult for a State Protector to obey a Commonwealth instruction
not to report or discuss policy with a senior officer of the State
Despite the assurance given to the Secretary of the Aborigines
Department some weeks ago that the conditions governing permission to
enter the reserve would be strictly observed, Mr Frank Quinn has been
employed as a carrier and has traversed the reserve without any attempt
at observing them. Whilst Mr Quinn is well known and liked by me I
feel that he is not the type likely to be approved by the Aborigines
Also there has been no attempt to bypass certain water supplies
in the Mann Range. The existing road has been graded almost as it
As the State Department's Superintendent of Reserves accom-
panied me I did not make any enquiries in regard to personnel employed by
mining organisations in the Mt Davies area, but I noticed several employed
in the area who were without permits to enter. Also that many miles of
roads other than those authorised had been made.
Geophysicists working in the Lake Wilson area have not been
Natives from WA spoken to at Ernabella are worried at the
activity of mines personnel in several sacred areas. They were not
concerned by the presence of white men in areas other than ceremonial and
secret life areas.
Reconnaissance to Rawlinson Range
This so-called reconnaissance was a rush trip made by Mr
Nossiter. Mr Beadell and myself to transport Messrs Barr, Aitken,
Driscoll and Keith to a pre-selected spot in the Rawlinson Range.
Owing to the seasonal heat and the hurry, due to the end of
the year, the trip was carried out with some difficulty.
There was no attempt made to select a site that would inter-
fere as little as possible with Aborigines occupying the Rawlinson Range.
A direct course was followed to Glen Cumming and a camp was
made at the northern end of the Pass of the Abencerrages.
Early next day a site for the post was selected and several
bore sites chosen.
Spinifex fires were seen a few miles to the North West.
I visited these fires and saw that they had just been lit and
were arranged to burn together and thus trap goannas. No other signs of
Aborigines were to be seen at that point.
After lunch the party moved back to the South side of the Range
where another site was chosen and bore sites selected. I remained in the
old camp in the hope that the curiosity of the Aborigines would overcome
their fear of this invasion and that they would reveal themselves to just
Having waited several hours in camp I climbed a low
hill to see if there was any sign of the people approaching the camp. I
was surprised to see small fires along the track made by the vehicles that
morning, showing not only that they were following these tracks into camp
but also that they wished to announce the fact. I returned to the camp.
Some time later an elderly man appeared and told me he had nothing that I
would want and that he had only a Woomera and one spear which he showed me
and the placed on one side then he advanced slowly lifting his feet high
so that I could see that he was not dragging a spear held between his toes.
I advanced to meet him and invited him to enter my camp. Some little
time later he asked if the rest of his party could enter my camp. Another
man, a boy of 11 or 12, 2 girls 9 and 10 and a girl of 15 or 16 then entered
the camp. Some considerable time later a young man and a group of women
and children entered the camp. They then told me how they had hidden
and watched our every movement earlier in the day and how they had had to
continue their day's hunt without the aid of spinifex fires through fear of
betraying their exact position to the strangers.
The group consisted of 19 people and were a family group :-
Men Women Children Babies Total
The head of the family 3 wives 2 small girls & one 1-15 years 1 8
Son of the above 2 wives a boy, a girl 2 7
Grandson of the above 1 2
2 old women 2
They had a large wooden dish of stewed wild plums,
another of honey ants, two rabbits, two cats, five goannas, honey and a
portion of one of the cats was given to me as my portion. Cat meat is
The old man enquired for what purpose the strangers had
visited his country and expressed anxiety when told that they intended
establishing a post. The word used means fear (I have not a word for
troubled or anxious but I gathered that he was more than just afraid. That
he was worried or concerned.)
Just before dark I moved to the South side of the Range
but found that the Aborigines were following. I made camp in a creek.
Next day I left the Aborigines and rejoined the
reconnaissance party and subsequently returned to Mt Davies and Woomera.
The actions and attitude of the reconnaissance party
also shows there is no intention of fulfilling or seriously regarding
the promises made by the Commonwealth to the Peoples of Australia. Mr
Barr stated that it was intended to interest and encourage personnel to
prospect as a hobby thus further invading country reserved for the Aborigines.
Mr Barr also stated that some area in the Warburton
or adjacent Ranges would be just as good if not better than the site
selected for forecasting weather.
In view of this statement and of the fact that the area
between 25deg 20min and 26deg 30min of South Latitude and 127deg 30min and 129deg of
East Longitude has been withdrawn as reserve (the above is an extract from
a notice appearing in Government Gazette dated 18th November 1955), there
is now no reason to establish a post or build roads or airstrips within
the reserve. Any establishment in country which is necessary to Aborigines
and their present way of life is contrary to their best interests, but where
contacts have already been made is much the less of the two evils.
All these activities are of great national importance and
must be fully considered by the highest authorities - and those whose time
and money is being spent for the Welfare of Aborigines and also for the
welfare and protection of Australia are entitled to complete assurance that
all aspects are fully considered and decisions reached are acted upon.
Also all those who are particuarly interested in the
protection and welfare of Aborigines both Government and other organisations
must be fully informed of the fact that the area above mentioned as withdrawn
from the reserve is occupied by Aborigines and that they are dependent upon
that area for their existence, as a community, and their way of life, so that
some action may be taken to ensure some protection and thus prevent a
condition of 'refugeeism' as long as possible.
It is fully realised that progress and science must advance,
but if existing measures necessary for the protection and welfare of
Aborigines are obsolete, impractible or to be disregarded, please publish
the fact so that new measures can be taken, and organisations function
smoothly and without false pretences.
W B MacDougall
Native Patrol Officer